The Ugandan government has absurdly claimed that its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act is not really about targeting gays and lesbians, in a seemingly desperate bid to avoid losing further international aid.
In a statement issued on Monday, the government stated that the law was only aimed at “curbing open promotion of homosexuality, especially among children and other vulnerable groups.”
It argued that the law has “been misinterpreted as a piece of legislation intended to punish and discriminate against people of a homosexual orientation, especially by our development partners.”
It’s worthwhile noting that the country has faced cuts in aid and other support and even some limited sanctions from its “development partners” because of the law.
The government went on to insist that “no activities of individuals, groups, companies or organisations will be affected by the Act. The intention of the Act is to stop promotion and exhibition of homosexual practices.”
It affirmed that it “remains committed to the protection of the rights of all individuals on the territory of Uganda and to ensure that nobody takes the law into their hands; remains committed to guarantee full access to social services, including health and HIV/ AIDS services, for all persons in Uganda without discrimination;” and “will continue to guarantee equal treatment of all persons on the territory of Uganda.”
The government further stated that it will “respect the constitutional provisions on the right to privacy” and “will continue to enable civil society and NGOs to operate freely, in accordance with the laws of Uganda, including relevant NGO legislation…”
The ridiculous statement is a slap in the face to Uganda’s LGBT community and directly contradicts the contents of the law which it seeks to defend: The act explicitly outlaws private consensual gay sex (oral or anal) with life imprisonment.
The government’s commitment to not target individuals and NGOs flies in the face of the arrest of people simply for having (or believed to have had) gay sex as well as recent moves against an NGO and an HIV clinic.
A report issued by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) in May recorded 162 attacks against LGBT people since December last year, when the law was passed; an increase of between 750% and 1,900% on previous years. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also documented the recent arrest of at least 17 people based on allegations of consensual same-sex conduct between adults.
Ugandan activist Dr. Frank Mugisha tweeted that the statement represented “welcome steps taken by Ugandan government to ensure non discrimination & no violence towards LGBT Ugandans,” but called for the entire repeal of the law.
Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan activist living in South Africa, was less convinced. He described the statement as “lies and lies, and more lies,” insisting that it is a “pharisaical farce.”
Writing on Facebook, he said: “They are sending us to jail, raiding our clinics, pushing us out of our country… And when foreigners, imagine, when friends outside the country protest, they then release these pious ‘but that is not what we meant.’ If anyone doubts what the Govt of Uganda meant with this well named ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act’, please go ahead and read the full text of the law.”
While the government seeks to placate international donors and partners, Uganda’s President Museveni has told his people that the country does not need Western aid. “Uganda is so rich, we should be the ones to give aid,” he said recently.